In August of this year, SOS Animals Colombia had the fortune to speak with the Australian philosopher Peter Singer, who is considered the father of the modern animal rights movement. Peter Singer is the author of the book “Animal Liberation” where the concept of “speciesism” was introduced to the debate on the moral consideration of animals. Peter Singer founded the organisation prior to what is now Animals Australia, the strongest animal rights organisation in the country. He is currently a professor of bioethics at Princeton University. In 2009, Time magazine included Peter Singer’s name in its list of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World.” Most recently, in 2012, he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in light of his notable contributions to the field of philosophy and bioethics, and last year he was presented with the Berggruen Prize, a $1 million award given annually to a thinker whose ideas have “profoundly shaped human self-understanding and advancement in a rapidly changing world.”
Professor Singer, how do you see the world and particularly Latin America in terms of animal protection from the time you started advocating for animals and today?
There is a lot more interest in animal protection now than there was in the 1970s, when I began advocating for animals. In particular, there is far more interest in protecting the animals people eat, who are overwhelmingly kept in factory farms. I can see that there is also more interest in Latin America, and I am particularly impressed by the positive attitudes of some courts in Latin America to legal actions seeking to free animals.
How do you see the situation in Colombia, have you closely followed the work that is being done for the animals?
I’m very glad that Petro won, and won very clearly. I hope this will give him the courage to tackle Colombia’s problems, including of course the suffering of animals.
I strongly support all the initiatives of Andrea Padilla. Especially a ban on cages – including of course laying hens. The European Union is in principle committed to such a ban, but has not done it yet. Just imagine if Colombia would take the lead and do it first! That would be something that the entire country could be proud of!
What is your advice to new animal rights advocates? How can they make their work for animals effective in today’s world?
Join an established organisation, preferably one that is concerned for all animals, not just cats and dogs. And especially one that is concerned about factory farming, as that is where humans inflict the greatest amount of suffering on animals.
A book that you recommend?
I recommend starting with “Animal Liberation” which is available in Spanish. I also recommend my latest book published with Paula Casal, “The Rights of the Apes”
We have seen that you are interested in Buddhism, do you think that Buddhism could help people to defend animals better?
If Buddhists are true to the key Buddhist idea of compassion for all sentient beings, then Buddhism could help. But unfortunately, like all religions, Buddhism is very liable to be distorted, and it is regrettable that many Buddhists continue to eat animals, and even animals from factory farms, which is so contrary to the spirit of Buddha’s teachings.